Expert: Keep Dinner Tonight! Healthy Cooking School on front burner

Family nutrition, togetherness program is Sept. 24 in San Antonio

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SAN ANTONIO — As part of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s statewide effort to promote at-home family dining, a Dinner Tonight! Healthy Cooking School will be presented from 6-8:30 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Tri-Point Conference Center, 3233 N. St. Mary’s St., San Antonio.

The school is being presented by AgriLife Extension and the Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension Program with the collaboration of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program.

A Dinner Tonight! Healthy Cooking School will be presented Sept. 24 at the Tri-  in San Antonio. The program will focus on preparing quick, easy and nutritious meals for family mealtime. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

A Dinner Tonight! Healthy Cooking School will be presented the evening of Sept. 24 at the Tri-Point Conference Center  in San Antonio. The program will focus on menu planning, as well as how to prepare quick, easy and nutritious recipes for family mealtime. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

“The percentage of the family food budget spent on eating out has steadily increased over the past four decades, and so has the amount of calories the typical American family consumes,” said Dr. Connie Sheppard, AgriLife Extension agent for family and consumer sciences, Bexar County.

When dining out, there is a tendency to choose foods higher in calories, and large portions have become more common, Sheppard said.

“Furthermore, at-home family dining is becoming a ‘lost art’ that could do much to address many issues related to family cohesion and obesity,” she said. “Many people are overwhelmed when they think of menu planning and trying to prepare healthy, cost-effective meals for themselves and their families.

Sheppard said the Dinner Tonight! program was developed by AgriLife Extension agents statewide with the knowledge and expertise to provide resources and recipes to help encourage at-home family mealtime. Dinner Tonight! Healthy Cooking Schools were also developed with the purpose of bringing people together in a fun environment to learn about healthy meal planning and preparation.

“With a little guidance and planning, making home-cooked meals can be easy, nutritious and inexpensive,” Sheppard said.

She said the cooking school in San Antonio will feature celebrity chefs Susan Johnson of Don Strange Ranch and Richard Ojeda of Black Tie Affairs Catering Inc., who will demonstrate how to cook easy main dishes. In addition, tasting areas will be set up so attendees can try the recipes and speak with AgriLife Extension staff about menu items using fresh, local and seasonal ingredients.

The program cost is $15. Participants receive a Dinner Tonight! cookbook, goodie bag, food samples and more. To register, go to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Conference Services website at http://agriliferegister.tamu.edu or call 979-845-2604.

Sheppard said Dinner Tonight! recipes are available free of charge through weekly video webcasts. Videos range from three to six minutes and are produced in a similar manner as mainstream television cooking shows.

She added that the Dinner Tonight! website is updated every Monday with a new recipe and video webcast. Families can sign up to receive weekly emails announcing new recipes by contacting Sheppard at 210-467-6575 or csheppard@tamu.edu.

There are currently more than 200 free video webcasts of easy-to-prepare nutritious recipes available at http://healthyliving.tamu.edu under the Dinner Tonight! tab.

Sheppard said Dinner Tonight! efforts have been “highly successful in having a positive impact on family nutrition,” based on evaluation surveys given to those involved in the program.

“Almost all participants responded they intend to prepare some of the recipes demonstrated and to experiment with healthy recipe modifications and substitutions,” she said. “And most say they intend to incorporate new, healthy foods in their diet, eat more fruits and vegetables and plan healthy meals in advance.”

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